J. K. Rowling’s “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”
This book is yet another testament to J. K. Rowling‘s astounding imagination. There are five tales altogether and after each one, Dumbledore writes his own analysis of the tale, and his personal experience of it (The Fountain of Fair Fortune has the funniest commentary). An introduction is penned by Rowling, and the original story is translated by Hermione Granger from the ancient runes they were originally written in (she is given credit, but she does not appear anywhere in the book writing as herself). At the end of the book are a few pages from the charity representative, explaining what the charity does.
The tales themselves are beautifully imaginative and the style is that of simple fairytales you would find in real folklore but subtlety eludes Rowling. The stories are obviously teaching the reader a lesson and there is no escaping Rowling’s highly hammered in morals. If you did not catch it the first time in the story (which I think may be impossible), Dumbledore is there afterwards to make sure you do, very much like he did in the original series. Having said that, the tales are really enjoyable, and Rowling’s wit serves her yet again.
Unfortunately Rowling is no more subtle in her introduction. She writes that these fairy tales have strong and active females rather ‘than taking a prolonged nap or waiting for someone to return a lost shoe’. There is one exception who acts like a normal fairytale princess ‘but there is no “happily ever after” at the end of her tale’ (pp. xii-xiii). I am not sure why Rowling feels the need to insult the intelligence of her readers in this way. The activism of the females would have resonated a lot more powerfully if she just let the stories speak for themselves. She continues on about kindness, tolerance and intelligence as the most desired characteristics and it is characters with these that obtain their happy ending. To be perfectly honest, this book could have done without Rowling’s introduction.
Dumbledore’s analysis of each tale is sometimes a bit lacking. When he is actually analysing the story he does nothing but repeat the obvious moral that springs out of the tale. It is far better when he proceeds into one of his anecdotes or describing society’s reaction to the tale. We are even introduced to one Brutus Malfoy, as far back as 1675 writing for an anti-muggle periodical. It is little touches such as that that makes Dumbledore’s contributions a real treat. Even Lucius Malfoy makes a comic appearence.
I would have expected more illustrations from a fairytale book, but they are quite sparse. They are simple penciled drawings with no colour but do have some detail. Her last sketch in The Warlock’s Hairy Heart is particularly impressive, as is her depiction of the three brothers meeting death upon the bridge.
Overall, it is a lovely edition to any collection; it is cheap and it is for charity, and they are actually really lovely stories to read to children! I am not sure whether these tales could ever stand the testament of time due to the imperative tone, but they are here now, and I would recommend them.